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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Ronaldo's riposte
By Saj Chowdhury

Football journalists are a fickle bunch.

One day they will put you up on a pedestal, the next, you will be likened to a vegetable.

Date of birth: 22/09/76
Position: Forward
Current club: Real Madrid
Brazil (1994-)
96 games 62 goals
World Cups 15 goals: 1994 - 0 goals, 1998 - 4 goals, 2002 - 8 goals, 2006 - 3 goals
World Cup winner (1994, 2002), Fifa World Player of the Year (1996, 1997 and 2002), Dutch Cup (1996), Cup Winners' Cup (1997) Copa America (1997, 1999), La Liga (2003), Spanish Super Cup (2003)

Take the example of Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, a 29-year-old Brazil international who has just scored his 15th World Cup goal - breaking Gerd Muller's record of 14 strikes in football's greatest tournament.

A week ago there were calls for Ronaldo to be dropped from the national team because he was unfit and overweight.

"It is hard to accept but Ronaldo definitely is not in a good condition," former Brazil international Leonardo told BBC Sport.

"Brazil have to be brave now and drop Ronaldo," added Tottenham boss Martin Jol.

Those comments were tame in comparison to those expressed back home.

"Pathetic," cried newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo and "It's a long time since I've seen someone as heavily criticised as Ronaldo," bellowed fellow paper O Globo.

But after his two goals against Japan and his record-breaking strike against Ghana, Ronaldo is back on top of the football tree.

So was the criticism ever really justified?

Coming into this World Cup, the 29-year-old said he had gone "45 days without training". Lumbering performances against Croatia and Australia, where he was substituted on both occasions, only gave hacks more excuses to sharpen their knives.

The "galactico" has also been labelled as a liability, having had two operations and several other injuries during his time at Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

His standing among Real fans was also at an all-time low. He scored a relatively meagre 14 goals in 23 appearances last season and revealed he felt unloved by fans.

"They have never accepted me. I'll consider that when looking at my future," he said in February.

Gerd Muller
Ronaldo Brazil
15 goals (1998, 2002, 2006)
Gerd Muller (pic) W Germany
14 goals (1970, 1974)
Just Fontaine France
12 goals (1958)
Pele Brazil
12 goals (1958, 1962, 1966, 1970)

And who can forget the newspaper frenzy of "Ronaldo-gate" after the 1998 World Cup final, when he played against France after reportedly having a fit prior to kick-off?

His exploits off the pitch have also been the subject of much scrutiny.

Newspapers lapped up his four-year marriage and subsequent break up with Milene Rodrigues, before they turned their attention to model Daniella Cicarelli, who he was engaged to. And now another model, Raica Oliveira, is the subject of his and everybody else's attention.

His love for beautiful women coupled with a reported attraction to nightclubs is great fodder for the front pages. And many have made the effort of finding a correlation between events in his personal life and those on the pitch.

It is true to say he is not the angel Pele was. But then Ronaldo has suffered from a greater weight of expectation, lived his life through a lens, and still come away with his reputation both intact and enhanced.

So to have scored three goals and taken Brazil into the quarter-finals is an impressive riposte.

If David Beckham shoved it down throats of his critics with his goal against Ecuador then Ronaldo shoved it... well, just fill in the blanks for yourselves.

So, in the words of Brazil's Carlos Alberto Parreira - "Ronaldo is back". But then, when did "The Phenomenon" ever really go away?

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